How to stop bad office habits from hurting your workforce


We've all worked with them.  Someone who sings, hums, whistles or taps.  But while the sound of tapping feet may sometimes drive colleagues mad, it might just make your workforce healthier.

Offices can be a hive of bad habits.  And while they may seem small on the face of it, then can lead to reduced engagement, ill-health and even sickness absence.  But some small changes and a little care can make a big difference.

Toe tapping

High blood pressure is a common affliction affecting more than 1 in 4 adults in England¹.  It puts extra strain on your heart and blood vessels - ultimately increasing the risk of heart failure, strokes, kidney disease and arterial damage.

A study from the University of Missouri has found that fidgeting, specifically moving your feet can be a useful tool to reduce blood pressure and has a generally positive impact on health².

Harry Miller, Occupational Health Physiotherapy Services Manager for Crystal Palace Physio Group agrees. "Did you ever get told by your parents or teacher to stop fidgeting?" Harry asks.  "Release your inner child for the good of your health.  The next posture is the best posture!"

Desk exercises

Inactivity is a modern curse.  Many of us spend the majority of the day sitting at our desks, storing up problems for the future.  And while some foot tapping action is a great start, there's also a whole lot more we can do to keep our bodies moving with the minimum of effort.  These can include squeezes, stretches and strengthening exercises.

Take a look at these handy desk exercises.

Workstation setup

Push your hips back as far as they can go in your chair.  Make sure your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are equal height to your hips.  You might need a footrest to achieve this.  Lower your armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed.

Pay attention to your posture

Pull back your shoulder blades.  Keep your shoulders in line with your ears.  Uncross your legs.

Phone etiquette

Do you spend a lot of time on the phone?  Do you cradle the phone between your neck and shoulder, leaving your hands free to type?  Don't!  It's exactly the kind of unnatural position that puts you at risk.  Use a headset instead so you can move freely.  Or try standing up to take calls.

Flexible working

This could mean mixing up the typical working day.  Harry says: "The latest evidence also suggests that good posture isn't all that, it's how long you're sedentary for.  Mix it up by hosting a standing or walking meeting.  One of my patients once told me he walked around the Tate Modern if it was rainy at lunch - switching off from work, being cultural and exercising all at the same time.  Is there somewhere similar near your office where you could do the same?"

Anything that gets the blood pumping a little more and gives your muscles more of a chance to stretch will help.

Stay hydrated

A 2012 study from the British Psychological Society found that college students who brought water with them into exams scored higher marks than those who didn't³.

"The benefits of hydration are endless - it aids digestion, helps prevent headaches and combat tiredness; not to mention the added desk breaks from increased trips to the loo!  One can also break the email cycle by connecting with colleagues instead of typing,"  adds Harry.

Most business budgets can't cover a major revamp such as gym equipment or standing desks.  But simply encouraging staff to consider how long they've been sitting stock still - and how to do something about it - can still have a major effect on workplace wellbeing.

Source: Unum

¹GOV.UK. (2017). Health matters: combating high blood pressure

² University of Missouri. (2016). Prolonged sitting-induced leg endothelial dysfunction is prevented by fidgeting

³British Psychological Society. (2012). Bring water into exams to improve your grades

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